“If a foreigner stays with you — or whoever may be with you, through all your generations — and he wants to bring an offering made by fire as a fragrant aroma for Adonai, he is to do the same as you.” -Numbers 15:14
If you’re a gentile believer in Yeshua, today’s post as well as the ones I’ll be writing over the next couple of days are for you!
We’re going to be discussing a very important word that’s ABSOLUTELY ESSENTIAL to understanding the mysterious grafted-in relationship you as a gentile believer have to Israel.
The word I’m talking about is GER and is usually rendered as “stranger” or “foreigner” in our English Bibles.
Before I go into what exactly this word meant in terms of the foreigner’s sacrificial ritual and worship obligations in ancient Israel, I want to share a quote from from that great Scottish Orientalist and Old Testament scholar William Robertson Smith (1846–1894).
He was a professor of divinity and in addition to serving as a minister to the Free Church of Scotland, was also an editor and contributor to the Encyclopedia Britannica.
He wrote a book called the “Religion of the Semites” which is considered a must-read primer for students of comparative religions.
This is what he said concerning the meaning of GER:
“The word ger goes back to a nomadic life, and it denotes a man of another tribe or district who, coming to sojourn in a place where he was not strengthened by the presence of his own kin, put himself under the protection of a clan or a powerful tribal chief”.
Note carefully the part of this explanation where it says “he was not strengthened by the presence of his own kin“
In other words, things weren’t going well in his own country.
So he decided to leave and embark on a new life in a different land with a different people.
Following this train of thought, if I was to provide an apt example of who a GER would be in our modern society, I’d say take a look at the non-native-born legal immigrants in our nation (referring to America).
Who or what exactly is a legal immigrant?
It is a person who originally hails from another nation but is now living in America among Americans.
Because this person wasn’t born in America, he may speak a language other than English and may still practice certain customs and traditions from his homeland.
Yet, he is still obligated to obey the laws of the new land he is now living in.
However, that’s just an example.
A “legal immigrant” in our society doesn’t quite capture the full Biblical sense of the word GER.
The truth be told, we’d be hard pressed to find a term in English that perfectly reflects the meaning of this ancient Hebrew word.
Biblically speaking, a GER was to be treated as an honored and special guest who was to be provided with the very best in hospitality including not only food and shelter but if his life was in danger, his hosts were also obligated to give their very lives to protect him.
Recall the story of the two men (really angelic beings) who visited Lot in Sodom.
When the wicked men of Sodom surrounded Lot’s house and demanded that Lot’s visitors be brought outside so they could gang rape them, Lot responded by offering his daughters instead.
“Please, my brothers, don’t do such a wicked thing. Look here, I have two daughters who are virgins. Please, let me bring them out to you, and you can do with them what seems good to you; but don’t do anything to these men, since they are guests in my house.”-Genesis 19:7-8
See, in terms of ancient Middle Eastern hospitality, the idea of the “protected foreigner” was considered sacred, even if that meant giving up one’s life to protect the stranger or in Lot’s case, even sacrificing the virginity of one’s daughters and letting them be brutally gang raped.
After some time passed, if the GER decided he wanted to now permanently stay in his new land, the idea of the “protected foreigner” was taken a step further.
As long as he was loyal to his new village or tribe, his needs would always be taken care of and he would always be protected.
Now here’s the thing.
In the New Testament, those gentiles who come to faith in Yeshua are considered as the GERIM (plural for GER) in the Torah.
That’s why it’s so important to understand the meaning and the many nuances of a GER as explained for us in Torah.
However, understand that the idea of the “protected foreigner” or GER is not a concept that originated in Torah.
It was common throughout all the ancient Middle East.
We’ll stop here for now, but understand we’re just getting started on this discussion about the GER which we’ll continue tomorrow.
CONNECTING THIS TEACHING TO THE NEW TESTAMENT
“So don’t be anxious, asking,
‘What will we eat?,’ ‘
What will we drink?’ or
‘How will we be clothed?’
For it is the gentiles who set
their hearts on all these things.
Your heavenly Father knows
you need them all.
But seek first his Kingdom
and his righteousness,
and all these things will be
given to you as well.
Don’t worry about tomorrow
— tomorrow will worry about itself!
Today has enough tsuris already!